Despite it being increasingly used to assist coaches, there has been surprisingly little research carried out on the impact of video analysis in football. One of that limited set of research documents was compiled by Simon Middlemas who wrote “The impact of video-based practice on the development of elite youth footballers” as his doctoral thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
That paper is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject as it looks at video analysis from the points of view of coaches as well as players. It is a document that is full of insight in what works and what doesn’t (and why) allowing those who intend to use such technology to avoid a lot of pitfalls.
Currently a lecturer at the Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure in New Zealand, he has clearly kept on thinking about this subject as evidenced by the added insight he provided in the replies to a set of questions Blueprint for Football put forward to him.
Blueprint for Football: What are the greatest benefits of video analysis?
Simon Middlemas: As an ‘objective’ source of information which stimulate new learning between the coach and athlete, and as a piece of feed-forward, to show the athlete what they are truly capable of in the future.
BfF: A clear danger that a player is influenced negatively rather than positively. How can coaches diminish this risk? How important is it that coaches analyse the way that players are taking to video analysis to ensure that it doesn't do harm rather than good?
SM: The best way to understand how an athlete is responding to video feedback is to take the time to understand how they work.
I believe that some coaches make snap judgements about players characters (e.g. mentally weak), and wait to be proven wrong. Good coaches invest the time to observe and listen to players, especially early on in their relationship, and use this information to structure how they deliver feedback in public settings.
One-to-one sessions with the video can help accelerate this process, by building trust. Reading players responses in sessions is difficult because some athletes can become experts at masking their feelings (often having experience a bullying coach at some point in their development, and not wanting to risk embarrassment).
Encouraging senior players to follow up with junior players after poor performance can be helpful too, as some players won’t talk to the coach as a first resort. Negative responses to video feedback are not necessarily a bad thing, but after this initial ‘hot’ response to a mistakes or error, the coach need to be make sure they take the time to talk to the player when everything has cooled down, and to help the player get their mindset right and move on.
Often this secondary process doesn’t take place and the athlete lingers on it too long or develops bad habits in their thoughts.
BfF: Would you agree that it is essential that coaches know how to teach players to develop a growth mindset by working more with those who lack the confidence and knowledge to analyse their performance to see what they can improve rather than simply what they did wrong?
SM: Yes, I agree with this. I am a huge advocate for growth mind set and think my research provides evidence of the negative culture created when coaches solely take a critical approach. Knowledge of result and performance are key aspects of learning, and there is plenty of evidence to support this approach.
I would put a caveat on that, however, by saying that in my practical experience there are
significant individual differences in their preferences. Some athletes do prefer to be given more objective feedback, regardless of whether it is negative or positive. The context matters too. Mid-competition is probably not the time for lengthy, reflection on performance and this may change the way it’s delivered.
I have seen very powerful evidence of this at elite level at key moments in competition, but away from these situations, I think most athletes (especially those lacking in confidence) can benefit from growth approach.
BfF: Do you agree that video analysis works best when tied to other techniques like setting individual goals?
SM: Intuitively, as a sport psychologist, I see the benefits of using mental skills such as goal setting, imagery and pre-performance routines alongside video feedback work to help prepare athletes better for performance.
Apart from visualisation, there is little evidence (beyond anecdotal) to suggest that these have a direct benefit or not. Both have support separately but not much recent research into the combination.
BfF: Your analysis was focused on professional academies where there are analysts who edit it for the coaches. What about coaches at non-elite levels who do not have this luxury? What can they do? What are the best practices that you have observed of such coaches?
SM: Video feedback is universal. Most coaches can access a video camera and ask a parent to film the games. Many parents now do this without being asked. iPads, smartphones and similar equipment have removed many of the accessibility issues around getting hold of footage.
Having said that, there is no guidelines for coaches on how to analyse, what to feedback at the levels below elite. The best practice I have seen recently has been in New Zealand where I am currently based. We run a graduate diploma in performance analysis. The students film and code domestic rugby competitions and load the coded highlight videos onto a publically available forum. The coaches get free feedback from their games, and their opponent’s games, in the form of coded highlights (e.g. tries, scrums, lineouts and so on) and can chose to do what they want with that (e.g. feed it back to players, analyse their opponents, analyse parents’ behaviour etc).
Every local club has a local university or college and an untapped resource of sport science students looking for placement hours.
BfF: Would coaches benefit if occasionally it was their performance that was analysed? How they react during the game, their voice levels during training and so on?
SM: In short, the answer is yes.
It’s an important area of development for coaches, and I think it goes a long way to building trust between the coach and athlete if the coach demonstrates the qualities (e.g. self-reflection, self-awareness) they are hoping to develop ion their athletes.
There are several conditions which would make this more effective: an experienced coach educator/mentor/psychologist who has a relationship with the coach, a framework/assessment tool which has been validated (e.g. CBAS, see paper attached) and a coach who is buys into this process for the right reasons (e.g. doesn’t just see it as a hoop they have to jump through for accreditations etc).
There are probably other conditions but if these were in place it could be a worthwhile process for all.